A talk at Morning Prayer on the 22nd May 2019

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Deuteronomy 18.9-22 / 1 Peter 2.1-10

Set Apart

The common theme running through our two readings this morning is holiness.

To be holy is to be set apart, to be different, to be consecrated to God.

This why the Deuteronomy reading sets so much emphasis on God’s people being different from the pagan nations around them.

Israel is to refrain from superstition, magic and occult practices, and they are to be wise about who they choose to listen to, because they’ve been chosen to be God’s people and to live in a way that shows who he is.

And our other reading, from the first letter of Peter, picks up on this theme, describing all of us Christians as living stones, a spiritual house for God, as a royal priesthood given the privilege of serving God and so needing to live in a way that shows who we are and who belong to.

We, like the people of Israel in our first reading, are to reflect who God is in the world and be changed into different people.

But how can we reflect God in the world as holy people?

One part of being holy is to be different, even when that’s an uncomfortable thing to be.

We are to uphold God’s standards, follow his ways, make him the priority of our lives.

It’s not that we should be looking down on others, convinced of our own righteousness and sure that we are better or know better than them.

This would be the kind of attitude that Jesus condemned in the gospels when he met it in religious leaders who were convinced of their own goodness but failed to show compassion and love towards others.

And sometimes Christians make mistakes or stubbornly cling to cherished ideas instead of paying attention to what God might be saying to us here and now.

We do need to be aiming to walk in God’s ways but we also need to remember that we all need and receive God’s grace every day.

made whole

But there’s another aspect to holiness.

And this is about health and wholeness and being truly ourselves.

God’s call to holiness is not just to impose obedience on us for it’s own sake, or because he doesn’t want us to enjoy ourselves.

Rather, God calls us to holiness because it’s in living in his way that we can be set free from all the things that drag us down, our sin and fears and weaknesses.

It’s in striving to live holier lives that we can get closer to being the people we were always meant to be and find true fulfilment and happiness in living lives of greater love, joy and peace.

It’s been said that the glory of God is a human being fully alive.

God wants each one of us to be fully alive, fully transformed, truly holy.

And so he calls us to come to him, to be made into his people, walking with our God and confident that he will help us on the path to holiness.